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Fall Sports Previews: 3 things to watch for field hockey in 2019

Junior Kirby Henneman, center, positions herself next to senior goalie Payton Steele tries as she waits for a teammate to send the ball towards the goal during Westminster's field hockey team practice at the school on Tuesday, August 27.
Junior Kirby Henneman, center, positions herself next to senior goalie Payton Steele tries as she waits for a teammate to send the ball towards the goal during Westminster's field hockey team practice at the school on Tuesday, August 27. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Change is coming to Carroll County field hockey this fall.

Many teams find themselves in different regions, and a pair of reigning state champions are in the same sub-region. Ten players from last year’s Times all-county first team have graduated. A Carroll County Sports Hall of Famer and longtime former coach is back coaching again.

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Liberty enters the new season as the reigning Carroll County Athletic League champion after capturing its first county title since 1982. But five Carroll teams finished with above .500 records last year, and three of them won regional championships.

So let’s take a look at three things to watch this fall:

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There’s still some proven firepower on offense around Carroll

Westminster lost a pair of perennial offensive threats when Veronica Maring and Haleigh Moore graduated back in June. The Owls duo combined for 27 goals and 21 assists, and helped their team reach the Class 3A state semifinals. But Westminster returns Kirby Henneman, a junior forward who led the county in scoring in 2018 with 53 points (22 goals, nine assists).

Owls coach Laurie Naill said she knows the importance of bringing back a veteran presence such as Henneman on offense, and she’s ready for improvement.

“I’m looking at her as someone to step up, create inside the circle,” Naill said. “One thing that we’ve discussed is just being a more well-rounded player. In between the [25-yard lines], I expect more out of her this year. And I have two freshmen that I’m bringing up, so I expect her ... to be a leader and to show them exactly what’s expected. I’m fortunate to have her back."

Liberty players celebrate a second half score against Hereford in the Class 2A field hockey state championship game at Washington College on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Liberty players celebrate a second half score against Hereford in the Class 2A field hockey state championship game at Washington College on Saturday, Nov. 10. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)

Westminster also returns senior Eleni Tartaglia, who finished in a tie for sixth in Carroll in scoring last season with 29 points (10 goals, nine assists).

Liberty, the reigning 2A state champs, brings back its top two scorers in junior forwards Caroline Evans and Kayleigh Ward.

Ward had 40 points (18 goals, four assists), third most in the county, while Evans was fourth with 38 points (13, 12). The Lions seem loaded for another state title run, this time back in 1A, with senior Riley Pardoe (29 points, tied for sixth in Carroll) and sophomore Caitlynn Szarko (26) also primed to contribute once more, among others.

South Carroll, which won the 1A state title last fall, lost its top two scorers to graduation in Abbey Behn (25 points) and Grace Fipps (21) but being back senior Meghan Radnoff, who collected 16 points on three goals and 10 assists.

The county’s landscape is undergoing a makeover

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association altered its postseason procedures, and the state begins a new alignment cycle as well. Field hockey doesn’t always match up with the other fall sports when it comes to alignment and classifications, but many of Carroll’s teams are on the move.

Westminster jumps from 3A West to 3A East. Century and Manchester Valley go from 2A West to 2A North. Liberty and Winters Mill join Francis Scott Key and South Carroll in 1A West, with the Lions and Falcons coming over from 2A West.

The sections within each region are no more, and the MPSSAA re-named them sub-regions (Region 1 and Region 2, for example). The winners of those sub-regions won’t meet to determine an overall regional champ, however.

South Carroll's Rachel Linn plays the ball in on a corner against Patuxent in the Class 1A field hockey state championship game at Washington College on Saturday, Nov. 10.
South Carroll's Rachel Linn plays the ball in on a corner against Patuxent in the Class 1A field hockey state championship game at Washington College on Saturday, Nov. 10. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)

Instead, the top eight from each classification gets re-seeded (based on regular-season winning percentage) and placed into state quarterfinals, where the higher seed hosts the game. The state semifinals are set for neutral sites, as in previous years.

And the state finals are set for Washington College on Nov. 9.

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Denean Koontz is back on the sidelines as a head coach

After coaching at North Carroll High School for 24 years, and guiding the Panthers to 1A state titles in 2013 and 2014, Koontz is back as Man Valley’s coach. She posted 235 wins at North Carroll, after playing there in high school and in college at Virginia Commonwealth, and entered the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

Koontz has been an assistant for the Mavericks since 2015 after North Carroll closed.

She’s one of four active county coaches who have won state championships — Terry Duryea led Century to a title in 2013, Liberty’s Brenda Strohmer has two (2016, 2018), and SC’s Julie Radnoff has one (2018).

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